There are still house repairs ongoing, so not the time or place to really relax and digest the season. But it feels like a funny season. Perhaps it’s just that Dallas and Atlanta, the two NFL teams I follow most, are marked underperformers at this time. Or perhaps it’s just that outside of Seattle, we’ve seen the death of the Cover 1/Cover 3 defenses.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
92         41     44.6      27.49        16.64     10.85

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  2.97


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     NE      23.5     6   6   0   0 100.0  98.4  14.22  23.67 -9.45
2     SF      14.0     5   5   0   0 100.0  92.2  16.85  16.60  0.25
3     GB       6.0     6   5   1   0  83.3  65.2   6.30   4.50  1.80
4     NO       4.0     6   5   1   0  83.3  53.6   3.86   1.00  2.86
5     SEA      1.5     6   5   1   0  83.3  59.0   2.26   3.17 -0.90
6     BUF      4.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  67.9   2.07   4.00 -1.93
7     MIN     17.0     6   4   2   0  66.7  80.6   8.55   9.50 -0.95
8     CAR      6.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  65.9   7.85   5.50  2.35
9     BAL      4.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  69.3   1.14   7.33 -6.20
10    KC       4.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  62.9   5.98   4.67  1.31
11    HOU      4.0     6   4   2   0  66.7  63.7   6.17   4.67  1.51
12    OAK      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  37.1  -0.40  -4.00  3.60
13    IND      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  48.7  -1.41  -0.40 -1.01
14    CHI      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.6   3.51   3.60 -0.09
15    DAL      4.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  70.6  -2.05   6.50 -8.55
16    PHI      1.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  55.7  -1.08   2.00 -3.08
17    LA       1.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  49.5   5.09  -0.17  5.25
18    DET      0.0     5   2   2   1  50.0  50.6   0.52   0.20  0.32
19    ARI     -3.0     6   2   3   1  41.7  32.6  -6.68  -6.17 -0.52
20    DEN     -2.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  50.0   1.37   0.00  1.37
21    PIT     -2.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  45.3   2.72  -1.33  4.05
22    TB      -4.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  45.0   3.84  -2.00  5.84
23    JAX     -4.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  41.7   1.85  -2.33  4.18
24    TEN     -4.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  54.7  -0.14   1.00 -1.14
25    LAC     -5.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  51.2  -2.90   0.33 -3.23
26    CLE     -5.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  32.3  -3.13  -5.67  2.53
27    NYG    -16.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  25.2  -6.44  -8.17  1.73
28    NYJ    -16.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  12.0  -9.99 -12.00  2.01
29    ATL     -8.5     6   1   5   0  16.7  27.8  -7.60  -8.50  0.90
30    WAS    -13.0     6   1   5   0  16.7  13.7 -16.27 -12.83 -3.44
31    CIN     -5.0     6   0   6   0   0.0  18.7  -7.27 -10.33  3.06
32    MIA    -25.0     5   0   5   0   0.0   1.3 -28.77 -27.60 -1.17
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The roof has come off my house as they are replacing it. And of course it rained (though not in the computer room). The noise is such that’s it’s tough to focus, so I’m grateful to have been able to calculate these results.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
78         34     43.6      27.72        16.40     11.32

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  2.88


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     NE      26.0     5   5   0   0 100.0  98.7  13.80  24.20 -10.40
2     SF      19.0     4   4   0   0 100.0  90.9  16.37  17.50 -1.13
3     GB       7.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  67.0   7.41   5.20  2.21
4     KC       5.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  68.5   7.41   7.00  0.41
5     BUF      4.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  67.3   2.34   4.00 -1.66
6     NO       2.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  49.4   3.13  -0.20  3.33
7     SEA      1.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  58.5   1.90   3.00 -1.10
8     DET      1.5     4   2   1   1  62.5  51.5  -0.26   0.50 -0.76
9     MIN     16.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  77.4   7.44   7.80 -0.36
10    DAL     10.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  74.6   0.42   8.20 -7.78
11    CAR      6.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  63.1   6.30   4.40  1.90
12    PHI      5.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.6   1.08   6.00 -4.92
13    BAL      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  68.4   1.05   7.60 -6.55
14    LA       3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  56.1   5.00   2.40  2.60
15    OAK      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  37.5  -0.73  -4.00  3.27
16    IND      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  48.7  -0.61  -0.40 -0.21
17    CHI      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.1   3.56   3.60 -0.04
18    HOU      1.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  62.3   4.41   4.20  0.21
19    TB      -1.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  49.5   4.93  -0.20  5.13
20    JAX     -1.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  45.6   2.58  -1.40  3.98
21    TEN     -2.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  67.5   3.23   4.40 -1.17
22    LAC     -3.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  56.5  -4.07   1.80 -5.87
23    CLE     -7.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  30.8  -3.27  -6.00  2.73
24    NYG    -14.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  32.5  -5.14  -5.60  0.46
25    ARI     -6.0     5   1   3   1  30.0  28.4  -7.44  -7.60  0.16
26    DEN     -2.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  38.4  -1.45  -3.20  1.75
27    PIT     -3.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  40.0   1.99  -3.00  4.99
28    ATL    -14.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  24.1  -6.89 -10.00  3.11
29    CIN     -4.0     5   0   5   0   0.0  17.9  -8.17 -11.20  3.03
30    WAS    -16.0     5   0   5   0   0.0  11.0 -12.86 -15.60  2.74
31    NYJ    -18.0     4   0   4   0   0.0   6.1 -12.01 -15.50  3.49
32    MIA    -34.0     4   0   4   0   0.0   0.5 -31.45 -34.25  2.80

My home life has been less than perfect, with a repair service on site to help fix the damage caused by a tree hitting my house. It’s around week 4 that the Simple Ranking System stabilizes enough to be used. As I write this, week 5 is more than half over, but better late than never.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
63         27     42.9      27.43        16.14     11.29

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  3.22


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     NE      23.0     4   4   0   0 100.0  99.2  16.52  23.75 -7.23
2     SF      14.0     3   3   0   0 100.0  86.4  15.01  14.00  1.01
3     KC       9.5     4   4   0   0 100.0  76.2  10.24  10.25 -0.01
4     DAL     14.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  88.9   1.22  12.75 -11.53
5     GB       6.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  66.2   3.92   4.00 -0.08
6     CHI      6.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  77.4   2.84   5.25 -2.41
7     LA       5.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  59.4   7.26   3.25  4.01
8     BUF      2.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  64.6   3.51   3.25  0.26
9     NO       2.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  42.7   0.49  -2.00  2.49
10    SEA      1.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  61.5   0.31   3.50 -3.19
11    DET      1.5     4   2   1   1  62.5  51.7  -0.99   0.50 -1.49
12    TEN      6.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  77.5   5.79   7.25 -1.46
13    MIN      5.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  71.6   4.20   5.25 -1.05
14    CLE      4.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  48.2   2.04  -0.50  2.54
15    TB       2.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  54.0   7.81   1.50  6.31
16    CAR      1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  63.5   5.69   3.75  1.94
17    LAC      1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  65.2  -4.68   4.00 -8.68
18    PHI      1.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  53.7  -3.03   1.25 -4.28
19    BAL      0.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  72.4   2.09   8.75 -6.66
20    JAX      0.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  50.0   3.22   0.00  3.22
21    HOU     -0.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  50.0   1.18   0.00  1.18
22    IND     -2.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  43.5  -4.47  -2.00 -2.47
23    OAK     -5.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  30.5  -4.34  -5.75  1.41
24    NYG     -6.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  41.3  -2.72  -2.50 -0.22
25    PIT     -3.0     4   1   3   0  25.0  38.4   3.01  -3.00  6.01
26    ATL     -8.5     4   1   3   0  25.0  24.7  -6.63  -7.25  0.62
27    ARI    -11.5     4   0   3   1  12.5  19.5  -8.47 -10.25  1.78
28    DEN     -5.0     4   0   4   0   0.0  28.6  -4.34  -5.75  1.41
29    WAS    -13.0     4   0   4   0   0.0  13.4 -13.42 -13.00 -0.42
30    CIN    -14.0     4   0   4   0   0.0  10.8  -7.79 -13.25  5.46
31    NYJ    -16.0     3   0   3   0   0.0   8.2  -4.98 -12.33  7.35
32    MIA    -34.0     4   0   4   0   0.0   0.3 -30.47 -34.25  3.78

A writer named Steven Ruiz has an article in USA Today worth spending some time on. There is the whole body of analytical data that fronts the article. He then documents some modern wrinkles in how the pass rush is now being coached.

He spends a fair amount of time talking about the zone blitz, something that in my eyes is not new, and to be plain, was used at least as early as the college TCU-SMU games of the 1930s, the Sammy Baugh games where SMU constantly varied the pressure Sammy would see (1). Different linemen would fall out of the lines and occupy zones, and the folks rushing would vary. This story pretty much gets told in any biography of Sammy Baugh. It’s not hidden in the depths of newspapers.com.

By the 1940s, you see lineman falling back into zones in books by coaches such as Dana Bible (2). Don Faurot, in his book on the Split T, says when speaking of the pass rush: “rush at least four men. Vary the number constantly.”(3)

Patterns like these continued into the 1950s, where books by guys like Bobby Layne then talk about the changes in how the rush was generated once Tom Landry’s 4-3 came into the fore.

In the 5-2 Eagle, as Layne explains, the rush largely came from the ends and the three linemen in the middle defended the run. In the 1950s era 4-3 system, all four down linemen rushed. All the linemen were tall men, with long arms to obscure the view of the quarterback. They all rushed because the wall of arms was a big factor in preventing downfield vision. And because they all rushed, and the 4-3 was a massively dominant defense, from the middle 1950s to the middle 1970s, the notion of a variable line rush was slowly lost.

So, in the modern context, Dick LeBeau is considered the father of the ‘zone blitz’, the modern incarnation of the 1940s ‘constantly variable rush’. And further, the faked blitz, is no longer just talked about or seen. It’s not, as a 1930s coach might put it, part of the ‘bag of tricks’ a defensive player should have. The creeper, as it’s called, is a coaching point that’s integral to some defensive systems. The idea is of course, not new, as anyone who ever saw the Jimmy Johnson coached Philadelphia Eagles defenses can attest to. The thing that’s new are that these kinds of ideas are integrated into defensive systems, are coaching points. And let’s give Steven Ruiz a +1 or thumbs up for exposing all that to us.

***

Hat Tip to Doug Farrar for exposing me to Steven’s post on Twitter.

Notes and References.

1. Holley, Chapter 4.

2. Bible, p. 156.

3. Faurot, p 223.

Bibliography.

Bible, Dana X., Championship Football, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1947.

Faurot, Don, “Secrets of the Split T formation”, Prentice-Hall, 1950.

Holley, Joe, Slingin’ Sam: The Life and Times of the Greatest Quarterback Ever to Play the Game, University of Texas Press, 2012 [ebook].

First things first. You cannot hurt yourselves much by buying Doug Farrar’s new book “The Genius of Desperation”. I have only one complaint about it. It does mangle the history of the one gap 4-3 when it discusses the Miami 4-3 that Jimmy Johnson helped introduce into the pros. From the beginning there were one gap 4-3s. Just, the 4-3s of Tom Landry were about gap control, not hard core pursuit. Otherwise it’s a very good book. Oh yes, the first edition has some issues in the diagrams, but if he gets a second edition, perhaps those will be fixed.

Dr Z’s classic now has a Kindle edition. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can get the book for free (for now).

Also, for a limited time, Coach Paul Alexander has a video of the back and forth of Super Bowl LIII, of the 5 UP defense the Patriots used, the tricks the Rams used, and how both teams adapted to defeat the respective defenses. Just, its now unlisted
(can’t be searched for) and it may disappear in time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, the system went 0-2, and probably would have gone 1-1 had the refs been able to call pass interference in the last two minutes of the Saints-Rams game. The story as I gather it, is the lack of experience in the current crop of referees and the lack of good positioning during the infraction. Count me among the folks who think “the booth” should be able to overrule this kind of blatant miss on the field.

The other factors that don’t seem to change is that New England outplays its strength of schedule and that Kansas City underperforms its playoff predictions. All that said, the formula predicts a close game with the Rams emerging with a victory.

Super Bowl Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
Los Angeles Rams New England Patriots 0.380 0.59 2.8

Not much to say, other than my system went 4-0 predicting winners. It did predict a bigger margin of victory in the Kansas City game, and closer games than most would have expected in the Saints game and Rams game. I don’t think in all honesty, that my odds were that much different from Vegas odds.

Once again, my data favor the home team, and by more than HFA. In both cases the home teams faced tougher competition throughout the year than the challenger.

Conference (NFC/AFC) Playoff Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
New Orleans Saints LA Rams 0.986 0.73 7.3
Kansas City Chiefs NE Patriots 1.162 0.76 8.6

 
In this instance the old and new formulas are close in terms of their predictions. That is because the strength of schedule adjustments between the teams are a little larger in the old formula.

Conference (NFC/AFC) Playoff Odds Old Formula
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
New Orleans Saints LA Rams 0.89 0.71 6.6
Kansas City Chiefs NE Patriots 1.092 0.75 8.1